Myopia is the most common visual impairment in children, and China has an unprecedented rate of nearsightedness. A recent World Health Organization report showed that about 600 million Chinese, almost half the population, are nearsighted, including more than 70 percent of high school and college students, and 40 percent of primary school children.
Current approaches to curbing vision loss include eyedrops, glasses, contact lenses and surgery. However, while these can be effective, they have side effects, such as higher rates of recurrence, eye infections and other ailments.
A researcher inputted two myopia records taken at least 12 months apart, and within seconds the model showed that the boy's diopters might reach-3 after 10 years, but he had little risk of high myopia.
High myopia usually progresses rapidly, and can cause blindness or other severe eye conditions, said Lin Haotian, the lead author of the study. The condition can also be associated with genetics.
The risk of children developing high myopia is a great concern for Chinese parents, with thousands of students seeking care at hospitals and ophthalmic clinics during school holidays.
The rise in myopia is partly driven by children spending more time reading, studying, or glued to computer and smartphone screens.
Research indicates that an effective way of curbing worsening myopia is to spend more time outdoors.
"Studies have proved that if children have an additional 40 minutes outside every day, the myopia rate will fall by 23 percent in three years," Liu said.
The AI model could also help combat the limited number of specialists. By the end of 2014, China had just 36,000 ophthalmologists, with 70 percent of them working in big cities.
Many spend most of their time treating severe eye conditions, but little on the prevention and control of myopia.
"The AI model will help ease the workload for ophthalmologists and improve diagnostic accuracy," Liu said.
Last year, Liu's team and researchers from other universities unveiled an AI system that diagnoses cataracts with a high degree of accuracy.
The myopia prediction model will be put into clinical use soon.
----adapated from www.chinadaily.com.cn